Morrell calls for State Senate hearing on Conti St. incident

A still from surveillance video of the Conti Street incident
A still from surveillance video of the Conti Street incident

A state senator from New Orleans has ordered a State Senate committee hearing into allegations of police brutality during Carnival which FOX 8 first reported about two weeks ago.

The incident involving two Northshore High School seniors, 17 and 18 years old, occurred Sunday night, February 8, two nights before Mardi Gras. The teens were waiting in the 700 block of Conti Street, just off Bourbon, for one of their moms to bring them a drink when they were approached by nine plainclothes officers: one NOPD, the others State Police.

The boys say they didn't know who they were, but the officers say they identified themselves and pulled out their badges. State Police say they were looking for curfew violators.

Somehow, as observed in a surveillance video, one of the teens was tossed to the ground and the other had his hair pulled.  The incident wasn't defused until the mother, NOPD officer Verna Hunt, came on the scene and asked what was going on.

The victims of the scuffle believe they were racially profiled and victims of brutality, and they have asked for an FBI investigation.

Now Senator J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans) will convene a special committee hearing, set for 5:00 p.m. on March 5 at Southern University, to search for answers.

Morrell says he's been getting a lot of feedback on the incident, especially from young African-American students he visited with at a local school.

"He said, 'Listen, Senator Morrell, I understand the city is doing this big Save Our Sons initiative, trying to say our lives are worth something.  And then you have these two young men who apparently were beaten up for no reason and no one will even talk about it. It sends a mixed message."

Morrell says he was appalled by the video of the incident but will reserve judgment until after the investigation.

A witness who asked not to be identified told FOX 8 the teens did nothing to deserve what happened to them.

"These kids were doing absolutely nothing, nothing," he told us.  "Like they could have tackled me because I was doing the exact same thing, nothing.  But I didn't know they were cops until they turned around and started yelling at everybody."

FOX 8 got a copy of the police report that says the troopers grabbed one of the boys when he placed his iPhone in his pocket.

State Police have urged the parents not to rush to judgement.

Monday afternoon, State Police Captain Doug Cain told us, "We were notified of the hearing and will attend, but with our investigation under way we will be restricted in what we can contribute."